During one of my summer breaks from college, I worked at a daycare in Lake Geneva, a nearby city. My job was to work with the school-aged kids, the ones who were not toddlers anymore, but not quite old enough to stay home alone.
My coworker and I spent the summer dragging tweens around to the movie theater, on a tour to see how custard was made, and swimming lessons at the beach. She was several years older than I was, but we had fun together and became good friends. I even went to her wedding, one I’ll always remember because my dress split up the back when I was dancing (that’s a story for a different day!)
About a year after April and Mike were married, I got a letter from her in the mail. When I opened the envelope, a balloon fell out. As I struggled to inflate it, I saw, “It’s a boy!” April was pregnant, and I was thrilled for her.
A few months after that letter came another. This time, there was a photograph of April and her husband holding a baby, but under the picture was a poem. It turns out that the baby had died during delivery, and she wanted to let everyone know.
I remember being confused, thinking that was such a strange thing to happen. I remember feeling sad, but thinking there wasn’t much I could do about it. Ashamedly, I tossed that letter aside and hardly gave it a thought for almost a decade. After all, I was 19 years old and had just been dumped by my long-time boyfriend. Translation = I was very centered on ME and MY problems.
1 in 4.
That’s the number of pregnancies that end in loss, whether it is a miscarriage or stillbirth or neonatal loss.
When I was 29, a decade later, I gave birth to twins at just about 24 weeks pregnant, and they both died. I was suddenly a member of this horrible club-the bereaved mom’s club-and everywhere I looked, I saw loss. I learned about pre-term labor and incompetent cervix and recurrent miscarriage and the fact that babies could grow inside the womb with only part of their brain.
In the United States, we have named October Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. My book, Almost a Mother: Love, Loss, and Finding Your People When Your Baby Dies, is a memoir that I wrote about the journey from my twins dying to now. It covers what people said, as well as what I wished people had said. It tells how desperate I was for people to understand how common infant loss is and how we need to break the taboo and let women TALK about it. I give tips for the things you can do when someone you love loses a baby so that you don’t just toss that letter aside.
When we spread awareness, we spread love and understanding. Help me by letting everyone know that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Consider participating in the International Wave of Light, which takes place on October 15th every year. To join, you need only light a candle at 7:00 p.m. in whatever time zone you live, in memory of all the babies that are gone too soon.
Visit my site, www.christywopat.com, to find out more about my book.
About Christy Wopat
Christy Wopat’s award-winning memoir, “Almost a Mother: Love, Loss, and Finding Your People When Your Baby Dies,” was published by Orange Hat Publishing in 2018. A 4th-grade teacher, busy mama, and wife, Christy has always relied on writing as a way to cope. Recently she decided to use that strength as a way to help others, so they don’t have to feel alone. Christy is a board member of the Mississippi Valley Writers Guild, and an award-winning essayist at Um, You Guys?. She lives with her husband and kids in Holmen, Wisconsin.